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DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI

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James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938), Atlanta University, Class of 1894 – James Weldon Johnson was not a music major, but his impact on music is significant. He wrote the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and his brother, J. Rosemond Johnson, provided the music. The song has a prominent place in African American history and it is sung as a heritage song at virtually all of Clark Atlanta University’s convocations and ceremonial occasions. Additional contributions by the Johnson brothers include The Book of Negro Spirituals (1925). For many years, the Clark Atlanta University English Department has sponsored an annual James Weldon Johnson Celebration. James Weldon Johnson was a pioneering figure.

Florence Price (April 9, 1887 – June 3, 1953), Music Department Chair of Clark University from 1910 – 1912 

Fletcher Henderson (December 18, 1897 – December 29, 1952), pianist, bandleader, arranger, composer, founder and creator of the big band, Atlanta University graduate –He was one of the pioneers of the big band, from which came the modern jazz orchestra. Henderson was instrumental in bringing many of the most important African American jazz artists of the time to wider exposure. Among that group of musicians was trumpeter  Louis Armstrong. Fletcher Henderson’s influence was far reaching and his place in jazz history is profound. A number of books and web sites provide valuable information about him. Among the books: The Uncrowned King of SwingFletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz (2004) by Jeffrey Magee. T

Wayman Carver (December 25, 1905 – May 6, 1967), Clark University, Class of 1929 – Wayman Carver was one of the first jazz flutists in history and the very first to be widely recognized as a true jazz flutist, featured  extensively on swing records in the 1930s. A saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger, and member of the Chick Webb Orchestra, he performed regularly at the Savoy Ballroom  in New York City with Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, and Benny Carter, among others. After a successful career in New York, he returned to Atlanta to serve as an educator. He profoundly impacted music education in Atlanta and the South by organizing the first elementary school bands in the city of Atlanta and by serving on the faculty of Clark College from 1942 - 1967. He was a distinguished educator and mentor to many outstanding musicians. Read about him at the following web sites:

Duke Pearson (December 25, 1905 – May 6, 1967) 

Dr. Florence Crim Robinson, pianist, Distinguished Fuller E. Calloway Professor of Music (19?? – February 22, 2008) - From 1971 to her retirement in 1998, Florence Crim Robinson served as Professor, Chair of the Department of Music, Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities at Clark College and Associate Dean of Humanities in the School of Arts and Sciences at Clark Atlanta University. Named Distinguished Fuller E. Calloway Professor of Music in 1982, she was in that same year one of eight faculty members named by the United Negro College Fund as “Outstanding UNCF Faculty.”

Dr. Robinson’s career included a number of important “firsts,” all prior to her tenure at Clark College and Clark Atlanta University: she was the first African-American television music teacher in the nation, and the first African-American to become a Coordinator of Music for Denver Public Schools.  She was named one of Colorado’s “Outstanding Citizens” by the state’s governor. She wrote and hosted the “Florence Robinson Show” for the Plough Radio Network, and her nationally syndicated radio program, “The Many Sides of Black Music,” was sponsored by the Carnation Corporation. She was also the host of a PBS television special, “The Music of Black Composers,” with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Robinson was an accomplished pianist and accompanist, having accompanied artists in major halls in the United States and abroad. The Clark College and Clark Atlanta University family especially treasured her as one of the most sensitive accompanists in metro Atlanta. Also during her years at Clark and Clark Atlanta, she served on the advisory committee to the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington , D. C. on behalf of the National Black Music Colloquium and Competition and, in 1988, and she traveled to China to study the music of ethnic Chinese minorities. Her biography is featured in I Can’t Do What?: Voices of Pathfinding Women by Barbara Hutmacher MacLean (1997). This book is available at amazon.com. Visit

Dr. Robinson received – at the age of 19 - a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale (her hometown), a master’s degree from the University of Denver, and the Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University. She was a former student of legendary conductor and pianist Antonia Brico. In 1982, Southern Illinois honored her with its Distinguished Alumni Award. She was again honored by her alma mater when, in 1998, she became the subject of the cover story for the SIU Alumni Journal.

George Adams (April 19, 1940 – November 14, 1992) – saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist who studied with Wayman Carver at Clark College – He was a member of the George Adams-Don Pullen  Quartet , one of the nation’s most respected jazz ensembles of the 1980s; collaborated with many of the biggest names in jazz, including Archie Shepp, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey. 

Marion Brown (September 8, 1931 – October 18, 2010), studied at Clark College in the 1950s with Wayman Carver – Alto saxophonist, one of the members of New York City’s jazz avant-garde in the 1960s, and ethnomusicologist, he performed on John Coltrane’s Ascension, one of the most highly regarded jazz recordings of the 1960s and a landmark in jazz history. He also collaborated with Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp and enjoyed a distinguished, international career. Marion Brown is considered one of the unsung great artists of the 1960s.

Mary Frances Early, Clark College, Class of 1957 – Mary Frances Early became a pioneer when she received the M.M.E. Degree in Music Education in 1962 from the University of Georgia, making her the first African-American to receive a degree from this flagship institution. Full recognition for that achievement was not received for many years. She received the  Ed.S. in Music Education in 1967 from the University of Georgia, with additional studies at the University of Michigan, Georgia State University, and Clark Atlanta University’s School of Education. She was honored as valedictorian at all levels of educational experience from elementary school through high school  and college. Recognized for a lifetime career in public school education, she served as teacher of band, choral, general music, and music resource teacher (all from 1957-1983) culminating in service as Coordinator of Music for Atlanta Public Schools (1984-1994). A notable achievement came when she served as President of the Georgia Music Educators Association (GMENC) from 1981-1983, the first African American to serve in this capacity.

Ms. Early later served as Adjunct Professor of Music at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges and then as Music Department Chair at Clark Atlanta University (1997-2005). She served as pre-concert lecturer for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra throughout her tenure at CAU and wrote articles for the Fisk University Press’s Notable Black American Men and for the Oxford University Press’s American National Biography. She also served on the National Music Educator Association journal’s editorial committee and as music advisor for NMEA’s Teaching Music journal. Ms. Early served as panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Fulton County Arts Council, and for the Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs. She was finally honored by the University of Georgia in 2000 as the first African American to receive a degree from that institution, some 38 years after the fact. A professorship was established in her name by the UGA College of Education, and a lecture in her name was established in the year 2000.

James H. Patterson

Phillip Davis, Clark Atlanta University, Class of 1991 - Grammy Award winning producer, pianist/keyboardist, recording artist, songwriter, founder and CEO of PhDProductions LLC

Sherman Irby, Clark Atlanta University, Class of 1991 - lead saxophonist for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, recording artist, founder of the Black Warrior Records label, jazz quartet leader.

Ann McPhail, Clark Atlanta University, Class of 1993 – lyric soprano, former faculty member in the Department of Music at Spelman College; studied at Tanglewood Music Center in Boston, Universita de Stranieri in Italy, and with Rita Loving in Munich, Germany; performances in New York and other major cities and with Houston Ebony Opera; performed at the 1996 Olympic Ceremonies in Atlanta, Georgia; a member of Atlanta Opera and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus; Master of Music Degree from Georgia State University.

Glynn Halsey, former Assistant Professor of Music and Director of the Clark Atlanta University Philharmonic Society, retired from Clark Atlanta University in 2010. This narrative is provided as a tribute to his significant contributions to Clark Atlanta University.

Prior to joining the Clark Atlanta University faculty, Mr. Halsey served as Director of the Morris Brown College Concert Choir. His directorship of this ensemble, in the 1980s and early 1990s, garnered the respect of his peers and a national reputation for choral excellence. During those years, his choir performed at every important convention in the nation that recognizes excellence at the collegiate level. These include the American Choral Director’s Association, among others. Noted for his unique understanding of, special affinity for, and strong advocacy of the Negro Spiritual, Mr. Halsey was honored to have participated in an historic celebration of the life and music of the legendary William Dawson – one of the most important arrangers of Negro Spirituals and one of the most significant figures in the history of music by African Americans - prior to Mr. Dawson’s death in the early 1990s. Continuing his tradition of excellence, Halsey brought the depth of his experience and skills to Clark Atlanta University in 1992, developing the choir into a nationally recognized ensemble. 

Under Prof. Halsey’s leadership in the 1990s, the Philharmonic Society experienced a formidable list of successes. It appeared with the Louisiana Symphony Orchestra during the 1993-1994 season in a nationally televised performance of African Portraits, an intense, gripping work by Hannibal (formerly known as Hannibal Peterson); it performed at the International Association of Jazz Music Educators Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, and at the Music Educators National conference in Atlanta, Georgia; it presented five concerts at the world-class Spivey Hall of Clayton State College and University, one which aired on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today;” it appeared on “Performance Today” in an additional live broadcast  from Clark Atlanta University; it performed during the Walt Disney annual touring show in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center; and it was featured with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves in a professional CD recording produced by National Public radio.

Since 2000, over 4 million viewers saw and heard the Philharmonic Society on “Chasing the Dream: Exploring Black History” on a live CNN web cast. A session of the web cast featured the Philharmonic Society in “Cultural Preservation through Music,” where the director discussed the origin and the imperative need to preserve Negro Spirituals. Along with a number of other select choirs from across the country, the Philharmonic Society was heard in New York City at Carnegie Hall in the world premiere performance of The Nativity, a contemporary work by composer Ernestine Robinson.  

Glynn Halsey received the Master of Music Degree in Choral Conducting from Georgia State University and the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Alabama State University. Additional studies were at Northwestern University, with Robert Harris, and the University of Southern California, with Rodney Eichenberger.